Ask any of us who travel around speaking at colleges and universities, and most of us will tell you the most challenging audience we encounter is the college chapel crowd. I believe you’ve got less than a minute to gain the attention … I did my best at Southeastern University but somehow that college chapel audience was, if not the best I’ve addressed, it was among the best.
I received an invitation from Charlie Dawes, an enthusiastic, thoughtful and hard-working young leader at Southeastern University to speak to the students for chapel and then do some Q&R and meet with some smaller groups on campus. That the first year students were reading One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow made the experience so much more important to me — not the least of which was because a bundle of students had good questions about the topics in the book.
Instead of speaking through a chapter or two in the book, I chose to examine the problem Western Christianity has created: the distinction between believers/Christians and followers/disciples. This opened the opportunity to address three themes about Following Jesus: the image of Fishing (Mark 1:16-20), the issue of Family Burial (Luke 9:57-62), and the need to see Following as Extending Jesus into our world (Matthew 4:23; 9:35 and 10:1-4). I was in my last minute when I walked off the platform! Here’s the thesis: I Follow, therefore I am.
The Southeastern folks are coffee drinkers, so not long after chapel we went over to a local Starbuck’s and had some French press coffee … I had Veranda … and great conversation. Breakfast at beautiful Terrace Hotel downtown Lakeland and lunch with faculty and students and good questions in the Q&R and then about 1.5 hours with some young seminary-aimed students (their questions made me think these profs take their jobs seriously) and then another Q&R with some students, including some questions about ECP and annihilationism, as well as an opportunity to clarify what the “new perspective” on Paul is. And some time on the gorgeous campus in Lakeland.
Through it all Charlie kept an eye on what was happening, but behind Charlie was the exceptional Danielle Shryock. She’s a fellow Illinoisan and Cubs fan (and so is Charlie!) but she kept both Charlie and me in line all day. Wonderful experience with the good folks at Southeastern.